BART considers panhandling ban

One BART Board Director aims to put a stop to panhandling, a common practice that some find annoying. 

The proposal would make it illegal to panhandle on any train or on BART properties, like station platforms. 

Whether inside a BART car, or outside a BART station, many riders have had an encounter with a panhandler.

"Pretty much every day when I'm putting money onto my card, someone will come up to me and ask me for change, a couple dollars for BART or the bus or something like that," said Shannon Hennesey.

Panhandling is a widely known problem that one board supervisor said she hears about often in emails and surveys.

"Panhandling is definitely part of the rider experience and my riders, my constituents, tell me on a consistent basis, they want it ended," said BART Director Debora Allen.

BART Board director Debora Allen plans to help end the practice by introducing an ordinance to ban all forms of panhandling, even the entertaining kind where buskers sing or dance for dollars.

"I don't want to see people dancing or whatever they're doing. I'm just going from point A to point B. I don't need all that stuff," said Anthony Olguin.

While aggressive panhandling like physically blocking someone or making threats is already illegal, a kinder approach is not, and some riders say they see no need to make a change.

"I definitely don't think it should be banned. They're just asking a question. Everyone is entitled to say no if they don't want to give them money," said P'liyah Dogih.

And it's not a simple free speech issue.

BART is not completely public space since people pay to gain access, so BART can make reasonable rules.

And though a stricter ordinance could be difficult to enforce, many riders say they already know how to deal with the problem.

"The aggressive ones I just ignore. I just keep my earbuds in and don't pay attention to them," said Ronda Myers.

This proposed ordinance hasn't been drafted yet, but director Allen said she is going to bring the issue up at the next board meeting on Thursday.